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The Packers’ 17-16 win over the Buccaneers in 1989 was equal parts exciting and terrible

In 1989 the Packers played a game that should be remembered as a work of art. But not the good kind of art, the bad kind that you make on accident but ends up looking good anyway. Outsider art or something.

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In 1989, the Green Bay Packers almost made the playoffs. This is notable because it hadn’t happened in a very long time, and also because of young upstart quarterback Don Majkowski. Majkowski was drafted by Green Bay in the 10th round of the 1987 draft. The player who went first overall in that draft, Miami’s Vinny Testaverde, quarterbacked the division rival Buccaneers, but it wasn’t going well, mostly because the Bucs were one of the few teams with an even more incompetent front office than the Packers in the 1980s.

The Bucs used to be in the same division as the Packers and so they played twice a year, and I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention the second Packers-Bucs game from that season. Their first meeting, an almost equally insane Tampa victory, may deserve its own closer look, but this one...this is something special. You can watch the whole game on Youtube here.

At first glance it looks unremarkable, a standard 80s 17-16 defensive struggle, but upon taking a deeper dive it quickly reveals itself to be one of those “these teams are bad, but the game is great” games. It’s like “The Room” or “Trolls 2.” Someday I may do a full commentary on this game for this very reason. And while some of what makes this game special is a certain “old timiness,” it’s not like 1989 was THAT long ago. Brett Favre was drafted in 1991, and this game happens to take place at the nexus of old-80s football and the more modern variety. It was a weird, awkward transitional period, especially for the Packers.

Frankly, we should have more games like this that we remember fondly. Bad football can be boring and frustrating, but occasionally it’s sublime. Hitting that sweet spot in something as unplanned as a live sports event is almost impossible, but consider the following incredible things about this game.

Vinny’s Nightmare

Vinny Testaverde dropped back to pass 43 times in this game. On 19 occasions, he completed a pass for a total of 188 yards. He did not throw a touchdown, but he took 4 sacks and threw 5 interceptions. Which is to say, on 21% of his dropbacks, he was sacked or threw a pick. We would learn, much later in his career, that Vinny could be a pretty good quarterback with good coaching and better weapons. In 1989 he had Ray Perkins calling mesh plays where the quarterback throws the ball during the mesh.

Mark Carrier was the best receiver on the team, but Carrier was more of a number two guy, and everyone else was absolutely awful. Carrier had 104 of Vinny’s 188 passing yards. The rest of the receivers recorded 84 yards on 12 catches, which is, again, incredible.

Don Majkowski was no great shakes either, by the way. He threw two picks, and without Sterling Sharpe’s contributions (8 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs) his line would have been just like Vinny’s.

The Packers did not have a shotgun package installed

If you are a young person, you may read this and think that maybe in 1989 that was just football. If you’re an old person like me, you know that many teams were running passing plays from shotgun in the early 80s, let alone 1989. In fact, in Tecmo Super Bowl, which is based on the 1989 season, the makers of the game gave Green Bay a shotgun play as a default!

Here is the Packers’ 4-wide set with Majik under center, attempting a furious comeback at the end of the game.

Donald Igwebuike’s single-crossbar helmet

Again, 1989 isn’t THAT long ago. It’s very odd to see something this old-timey just outside of the 90s. Donald looks like the oldest football player in the world here.

Lindy Infante’s Sweater

Mike Ditka was rocking this style in 1985, but that never stopped Lindy. By the way, during the broadcast one of the announcers mentions that Lindy is short for “Gelindo” and just barely avoids using a racial slur.

Mullets

I don’t think anyone can look good with a mullet, including Majik, especially including Anthony Dilweg who appears to be wearing some kind of Anthony Dil-wig, but then we see this…

I don’t care what anyone says. Chris Jacke is an attractive man.

Undershirts

I have these Kirkland undershirts from Costco I got a long time ago that I sometimes wear when I have to wear a suit or something like a suit, but they’re weird, and the sleeves are just a little too long. I went to this summer wedding once where I changed into a short-sleeve button down after the ceremony but for some reason possibly involving alcohol I did not discard the undershirt, and the undershirt sleeves stuck out further than the short sleeve sleeves, and I basically looked like this.

You rock it, Majik.

Bad camerawork and shadows

Tampa’s old stadium was horrendous for shadows, and much of this game was played in darkness. For instance, here’s the original shot of a dynamic 55-yard touchdown to Sterling Sharpe…

And the reverse angle.

That’s really how it looked on TV. Man, how did we even watch this game.

Amazing commercials

Miller had this ad where a guy taking a shower as part of an ad in a roadside billboard grabbed a beer from a different billboard, which made it snow in his billboard shower, and it was really a magical time.

We won!

The aforementioned very attractive rookie kicker Chris Jacke nailed a 47-yarder as time expired to win this game, and that was that. The Packers were well on their way to almost making the playoffs while the Bucs were basically eliminated.

I know I keep saying that 1989 wasn’t THAT long ago, but of course, that’s not true at all, as proven by the fact that the day this game was played, my family was out doing something and so my parents taped it on Beta, which we watched later. Football has changed drastically over the span of three quarterbacks for the Packers and when you watch something like this, it’s a wonder that anyone ever scored any points back in the day.